- The Cthulu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex -Sea-Devils.
- James Lovegrove.
- 352 pages.
- Fiction / Horror / Fantasy / Crime / Mystery.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
It is the autumn of 1910, and for fifteen long years Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson have battled R lluhloig, the Hidden Mind that was once Professor James Moriarty. Europe is creeping inexorably towards war, and a more cosmic conflict is nearing its zenith, as in a single night all the most eminent members of the Diogenes Club die horribly, seemingly by their own hands. Holmes suspects it is the handiwork of a German spy working for R lluhloig, but his search for vengeance costs an old friend his life.
The companions retreat to Holmes’s farm on the Sussex Downs, and it is not long before a client comes calling. Three young women have disappeared from the nearby town of Newford, and the locals have no doubt who is responsible. For legend has it that strange amphibious creatures dwell in a city on the seabed, coming ashore every few centuries to take fresh captives. As Holmes and Watson seek out the terrifying interlopers, the scene is set for the final battle that will bring them face to face with the Sussex Sea-Devils, and perhaps with Cthulhu himself…
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils is the third and final book in The Cthulu Casebooks trilogy by Lovegrove following on from the previous two releases the Shadwell Shadows and the Miskatonic Monstrosities. Both of those are fantastic books (you definitely need to read them both before tackling this one) that are well worth a read and the trilogy, on the whole, pays homage to and honours the originals while creating a wonderfully unique read.
The Cthulu Casebooks merge together Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic literary characters of Sherlock Holmes, Dr John Watson and Professor James Moriarty with H. P Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos. On the surface, the pairing is a rather weird mix. You have the world’s colliding, the rational and the irrational. On one side, Holmes with his intellect, his analytical thinking and his skills of deduction and on the other, the strange otherworldy supernatural element of the Cthulu mythology. They are two polar opposites but the merging of the two canon’s works. In fact, it works extremely well and when you factor in that Lovegrove is a tremendous storyteller, well then, you have a marvellous mash-up, something that is bizarre yet brilliant, wholly imaginative and a winner on your hands.
The tale behind the trilogy goes that Lovegrove is a distant relative to H. P. Lovecraft and he inherited a trio of manuscripts that had been given to Lovecraft by Dr. John Watson. Watson wrote the manuscripts later in his life, near the end of his time, attempting to purge his soul, pulling back the veil and finally revealing the truth behind Holmes many investigations. Previously, when writing up his accounts of Holmes and his investigations Watson had ignored the supernatural that had plagued Holmes career. Either removing anything eldritch from the investigation or changing it to something that while fitting with the narrative (for example a man in a mask as opposed to a creature) kept it in the realms of the believable. Turning those crime-solving exploits into fiction and the stories that are beloved by millions worldwide. The Shadwell Shadows, The Miskatonic Monstrosities and The Sussex Sea-Devils are the three manuscripts. Now, in the hands of Lovegrove and with minimal editing those manuscripts have become The Cthulu Casebooks trilogy.
After a lifetime of battling R’luhlloig and his evil forces Sherlock Holmes, now, in his fifties has retired to a small homestead on the Sussex Downs. Trading in the majority of investigations (though he still dabbles, particularly in those cases of an eldritch nature and when needed keeping up the fight against R’luhlloig and his minions) for beekeeping. Watson remains in London at his medical practice and the start of the Sussex Sea-Devils sees him visiting Holmes in Sussex and falling straight into an investigation that Holmes is currently undertaking.
Later in the day, after the investigation is concluded, Holmes and Watson return to the small farm that Holmes owns to catch-up on their lives. For Holmes, it is also a chance to explain to Watson what had just transpired with the investigation, to elaborate on what was going on and to tell him what he had unexpectedly stumbled into. Later, Watson is awakened from his slumber by the telephone ringing. It is Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother, incoherently babbling nonsense down the line. With Watson, devoted and ever faithful by his side, he rushes to London as quick as humanly possible to find out what has befallen Mycroft and to hopefully discern the cause behind his insensate state.
Holmes, sadly, is too late to save his older brother and Mycroft is already dead by the time the duo arrive at his house. Mycroft, however, isn’t the only person to be found dead. The rest of the Dagon Club, a secret group comprised of renowned members of the Diogenes Club have also all perished during the night. The subsequent investigation inevitably leads Holmes back to R’luhlloig who is attempting to bring to fruition a nefarious plan, years in the making. Holmes and Watson manage to escape and then evade the clutches and the grasp of the long arm of The Hidden Mind. Returning to Sussex where they wait, hiding, recuperating and biding their time before R’luhlloig strikes once again.
During the quiet period, the calm before the storm and the lull in activity from R’luhlloig Holmes takes on a new case. There are reports of a trio of women going missing in the nearby village of Newford. Old folklore tales of the area abound, every couple of hundred years humanoid creatures (the Sea-Devils of the title) come from out of the sea, the sea churns, the mist rolls down covering the entire village in a fog and women are taken, never to be seen again.
Once more the game is afoot as Holmes and Watson investigate, delving into the mystery and revealing the truth behind the Sea-Devils. The influence of R’luhlloig can be felt and his plan is heading towards its culmination. Leading us to R’lyeh, the resting place of Cthulu and the ultimate tentacled showdown between the Great Old Ones, the Outer Gods, Holmes and R’luhlloig.
I love the whole presentation (the image doesn’t do it justice, in real-life the book cover is stunning) and Lovegrove, from the beginning to the end shows a dedication to his craft going all-in with his pretence. Exuding a sense of Kayfabe and keeping up the charade that he has crafted throughout the duration of the entire trilogy. There are prefaces by Lovegrove, forewords by Watson, epilogues by Watson and, for The Sussex Sea-Devils an additional afterword by Lovegrove and then a publisher’s note by Titan Books to close the tale that all add to the sense of kayfabe and the blurring of the lines of reality.
The Sussex Sea-Devils isn’t a story to take too seriously. However, it is a dark story that has some deep moments included and it is filled with twists, turns and tension. It is a story to lose yourself in, a story whereby you switch off, enjoy the ride and just have some fun reading. This isn’t a detriment to the book. Far from it, I loved it (like I have loved the whole trilogy) and it is that fun aspect that keeps the pages turning, the reader engaged and makes both The Sussex Sea-Devils and The Cthulu Casebooks so damn enjoyable and entertaining to read.
Purchase The Cthulu Casebooks: Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea-Devils.
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